Four touchdowns as a rookie returning punts, and it was impossible for many not to get spoiled by Patrick Peterson’s feats in that realm of the game.
Maybe even Peterson himself, although he realized early it would come to an end.
“Honestly, in a sense, I knew at some point and time teams would start game-planning against me,” Peterson said. “Punting the ball away from me, punting the ball out of bounds, pinning me on the sideline. If you go back and watch all four of my (touchdown) punt returns, they punted the ball in the middle of the field where I had two-way gos. On the sideline, they are wrapping the whole team around me and forcing me down the sideline.
“At the end of the day I have to stay patient. They can’t put the ball on the sideline all the time. There will be one they shank, one they slip up, and that one, we have to make count.”
Peterson figures there have been “three or four” that were returnable this season. There were a couple I remember seeing early on that Peterson wasn’t staying patient, trying to cut up field too early instead of stringing it out wide a little first and then bursting upfield. There have been others that needed better blocking. But Peterson has been in a punt-return production slump for a while now.
It never quite came around last season. This year, Peterson is averaging 5.8 yards a return on 12 returns with a long of 18 yards (as a rookie, Peterson averaged 15.9 yards a return. Last year it was 8.4.) Tyrann Mathieu has been used for a handful of punt returns this season, but he has fielded just one, and that was a fair catch.
“It’s obviously much tougher than it was a couple years ago,” Peterson said.
Regardless, Peterson remains confident in his abilities to return punts and believes he will break out at some point. Certainly, he’s proven that’s possible.
Tags: Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu
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